Shafter CA
N Dakota
S Dakota

65 Years Ago Next Summer

Shafter, CA June 14, 1953. Duerksen Family reunion.

Half of the people in this photo are Dirksens or Duerksens. Where did they all come from?

On April 26, 1795 Dutch Mennonite Johann Dircks was married in Schweingrube, Prussia (now Barcici, Poland). Johann and Catarina's nine children were born on their farm near the Tragheimerweide Mennonite church, where Johann was known for his sausage and dairy products.

After Napoleon's hordes came through their countryside in 1812 conscription of young Mennonites for military service became more likely. Johann emigrated, with his wife and three surviving children, to South Russia in 1819.

Their daughter died young, but the two boys, Johann and Heinrich, lived out their lives on their father's Alexanderthal farm (coordinates 47.026583,36.051289). They married and raised families of their own. It is said they were hot-headed and lived out their lives in much unpleasantness.

Their children were subjected also to the increasing pressure of too little available land and the increasing threat of military conscription. In 1874 Johann's children emigrated to Marion County, Kansas, where they spelled their name Duerksen. Most of them stayed, but a some of their descendants moved to Oklahoma and New Mexico. In 1876 Heinrich's children emigrated to Turner County SD (47.026583,36.051289) where they spelled their name Dirksen. In the late 1880s most sold their land and went to Richville, ND then again in the 1890s to New Home (47.31359 -99.38625). By the 1920s, their descendants had begun migrating to Canada, Minnesota, Oregon and southern California.

About 1915 many Dakota Dirksens and Kansas Duerksens began to congregate in the new village of Shafter, California.